Elections in Belarus are not a mechanism of correcting the course of development of the country, so there is nothing surprising about the absence of the word “reforms” in A. Lukashenko’s electoral program. All that the future five-time winner could have proposed to the electorate was a set of good wishes. Let us limit ourselves to one example: “Rapidly moving forwards on the way of progress, we will be doing everything to bring Belarus to the group of the leading countries of the world”.

The absence of the word “reforms” in the electoral program doesn’t mean that this word is not a part of the head of state’s vocabulary, and this was demonstrated on the 6th of November during the inauguration ceremony: 28 mentions in a short speech is an answer to all those who strive “to break the political system of the country, and state structure of Belarus” and “to divide and cut up the state property”.

December IISEPS survey permits to evaluate the reformatory potential of Belarusian society (Table 1). Formally, the “coefficient of prevalence” of reform supporters over the conservators never dropped below 2 over the last 5 years (see the last row of the Table 1). In 2011 after the crisis it amounted to 4.3, in December 2015 it amounted to 2, which is apparently its normal value.

Table 1. Dynamics of answering the question: “Do you consider it important to carry out market-friendly reforms in Belarus?”, %

Variant of answer 05’11 12’13 12’14 09’15 12’15
Yes 66.6 59.7 63.2 57.5 56.9
No 15.6 27.8 22.0 27.3 27.8
DA/NA 17.8 12.5 14.8 15.2 15.3
Yes : No 4.3 2.1 2.9 2.1 2.0

It is natural that A. Lukashenko’s opponents more often declare their need of reforms than his supporters. However, judging by the results of Table 2, over the past year there was a polarization of views on reforms inside politically charged groups of Belarusian society: among the head of state’s supporters the need of reforms dropped by 16.4 points, while among his opponents it jumped by 5.4 points. You should also note the last row of table 2, where two opposite trends are registered: the share of those who didn’t answer the question jumped by 7.3 points among the supporters and dropped by 6.3 points among the opponents. Apparently, this polarization is the result of anti-reformatory statements of A. Lukashenko made after October 11.

Table 2. Dynamics of answering the question: “Do you consider it important to carry out market-friendly reforms in Belarus?” depending on the attitude to A. Lukashenko, %

Variant of answer Attitude to A. Lukashenko
12’14 12’15
Trust Don’t trust Trust Don’t trust
Yes 56.1 70.3 39.7 75.7
No 30.1 14.8 40.2 15.6
DA/NA 13.8 15.0 21.1 8.7

This explanation is confirmed by the dynamics of answering the question of table 3. On the 6th of November the head of state equated system reforms to attempts to break the political system, and this was reflected in the answers of respondents: the share of supporters of system reforms dropped by 4.6 points comparatively to March, while the share of conservators, believing that society need protection against forces “which try to change current order”, jumped by 7.7 points.

Table 3 Dynamics of answering the question: “Which of the following statements corresponds to your opinion most?”, %

Variant of answer 07’14 03’15 12’15
Our society needs serious reforms (structural and system changes) 38.4 39.9 35.3
Our society needs gradual reforms which would preserve current system 34.2 42.2 41.6
Our society needs protection against forces which try to change current order 19.4 14.4 22.1
DA/NA 8.0 3.5 1.0

Let us note the high level of polarization in the answers of supporters and opponents of A. Lukashenko: 10.7% vs. 65.3% (the first variant of answer) and 36.5% vs. 7.8% (the third variant of answer).

Answers to the direct question on attitude to A. Lukashenko’s statement “In order to carry out reforms in Belarus, it is necessary to break the political system of the country, state structure of Belarus, divide and cut up the state property and give it away” were split up. 43% of respondents agreed with the statement, 44.8% disagreed, and 12.2% didn’t answer the question.

In this regard we need to understand what respondents mean by “reforms”. In April 2013 the three most expected “reforms” were quite predictable for a paternalist society: “Increase minimal wages” – 61.7%, “Increase pensions” – 41.8%, “Improve relations with the West” – 33%.

In December 2015 we asked an open question (no variants of answers) on the reforms, which, according to the respondents, A. Lukashenko should carry out in the next 12 months. Individual variants receive as a rule a low percent of votes in the answers to an open question, so it would be incorrect to compare the results of an open and a closed question.

In December 2015 respondents formulated 57 directions for reforms, but only 9% of them received more than 3% of votes. Here is the top five: “Carry out economic reforms, modernize economy” – 15.1%, “Increase salaries” – 10.4%, “Improve medical services” – 10.3%, “Stop the price hike” – 8.3%, and “Increase pensions” – 7.9%. Thus, four out of five variants were in fact requests to enforce social security of population.

Pain spot of the reforms is rising the retirement age. On December 28 Vice Prime Minister N. Kochanova mentioned the inevitability of increasing the retirement age due to the fact that “current retirement age doesn’t take into account either objective economic reality or the growth of average life expectancy”. She also referred to the head of state’s opinion that retirement age should be increased, but only if people are “for” it.

According to IISEPS survey, Belarusians are not “for” it yet (Graph 1). There was, however, a slight shift in favor of rising the retirement age over the last year. Main supporters on increasing the retirement age in Belarus are outmost age groups: 18-29 – 23.6%, 60+ – 27.1%. For the first group retirement is an abstraction, and it’s hard to think about it yet; and there is no threat of any innovation for the second group. Respondents aged 40-49 were the least supportive, and this doesn’t need any comment.

Rising of the retirement age is one of conditions of the International Monetary Fund. Belarus continues to negotiate a new program of expanded financing. $ 3 billion are at the stakes. According to the Belarusian powers, these negotiations are close to the end, and the decision to allocate the credit may be taken before the end of the first quarter of 2016. The conditions for receiving the credit made the attitude to it politically charged (Table 4). One third of A. Lukashenko’s supporters and two thirds of his opponents agreed that international creditors’ requirements are fair.

Table 4. Distribution of answers to the question: “Belarus turned to the International Monetary Fund and the Eurasian Fund for Stabilization and Development asking for credits. International financial organizations are ready to provide credits only upon condition of economic reforms in Belarus. How do you evaluate this?” depending on the attitude to A. Lukashenko, %

Variant of answer All respondents Attitude to A. Lukashenko
Trust Don’t trust
It is fair 47.0 33.3 62.5
It is not fair 36.8 48.1 27.5
DA/NA 16.2 18.6 10.0

Belarusian people’s ability to demonstrate “extraordinary political culture”, mentioned by A. Lukashenko on November 6, is not supported by an ability to demonstrate economic culture of the same level. In particular, 24.2% of respondents believe that forthcoming denomination will lead to a worsening of financial standing: 12.5% among A. Lukashenko’s supporters, 37.5% among his opponents. Let us note that the level of negative expectations among respondents with higher education turned out to be higher than among respondents with primary education – 25.9% vs. 17%.

There is certain logic to it: despite the high level of education, oppositional Belarusians doesn’t expect anything good to come out of any power’s actions.

Skeptical attitude to the future reforms is partly based on the negative evaluations of modernization results (Table 5). In December only 11.4% of respondents agreed that modernization of economy was successfully accomplished. Among A. Lukashenko’s opponents the share of optimists was equal to the statistical error level.

Table 5. Distribution of answers to the question: “Several years ago President A. Lukashenko promised to accomplish a modernization of Belarusian economy. Some people think that this modernization was successfully accomplished, while others disagree. What is your opinion?” depending on the attitude to A. Lukashenko, %

Variant of answer All respondents Attitude to A. Lukashenko
Trust Don’t trust
Modernization of economy was accomplished successfully 11.4 18.6 3.0
Modernization of economy was accomplished partially 46.6 57.0 33.7
There was no modernization of economy at all 33.5 12.2 58.3
DA/NA 8.5 5.5 2.1

Opinions about the role of the power in reforms are quite split: 41.1% of respondents suppose that strengthening of the power’s role will increase the efficiency of reforms; 43.1% of respondents share the opposite opinion. This ratio has not changed since July 2014.

The unfolding economic crisis reduces paternalistic options of the power, and this fact increases the demand for monopoly on state redistribution of resources. The requests to ensure the justice, declared by the state, increase as well, i.e. people want that crisis to be overcome not at the expense of people.